Command and Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars developer chat

12 May 2006
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This C&C3 teaser was taken from a E3 video of EA games:

Mike Verdu, EA Executive Producer, gave an interview about Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars before E3. Below you’ll find new info about the story, AI, single player campaign, vehicles, engine improvements and more.

IGNPC: Explain to those of us seeking to rekindle the fantasies of last decade where the Tiberium story left off and a brief synopsis of how it happened.
Mike Verdu: The original game introduced us to a near-future world where an alliance of advanced nations battled a secret society turned superpower over control of a strange new resource called Tiberium. This resource was a highly toxic form of matter, growing out of the ground in oddly beautiful fields of green crystal that killed everything around them. Tiberium was deadly… but it was also concentrated energy that could be easily harvested.

The First Tiberium War between the Global Defense Initiative (GDI) and the Brotherhood of NOD (NOD), was a furious conflict fought on multiple continents. The GDI was sort of like NATO – a collection of first world countries with combined military forces. NOD was a strange hybrid of terrorist organization and nation state, a high-tech cult with a religion built around Tiberium, led by a charismatic psychopath named Kane. NOD had a modern military infrastructure and recruited soldiers from the third world. Kane manipulated global public opinion against GDI. Tanks, aircraft, and infantry from both sides clashed on the battlefields of the future, the already rapid pace of warfare accelerated by exotic new weapons based on particle beams, and Tiberium technology.

GDI battled NOD to a standstill at the end of the first game. Command & Conquer Tiberian Sun was the next chapter – and told the story of the second Tiberium War that erupted between GDI and a resurgent NOD.

command and conquer 3 in-game

IGNPC: What exactly is Tiberium? What’s so special about it that it has become the focal point of a war enfolding all of humanity?
Mike Verdu: Tiberium is consuming the planet Earth like a radioactive Ice Age. It is a gift and a curse – a resource and a plague.

Technically Tiberium is a self-replicating crystalline substance of extraterrestrial origin that converts everything that it touches into more Tiberium. As it transmutes matter, Tiberium gives off powerful radiation – and this makes it very useful as an energy source and as a weapon.

This enigmatic crystal is at the core of our gameplay as well as our fiction. Tiberium is the resource you harvest on the Real-time Strategy (RTS) battlefield to bootstrap your economy and build your army; it is also at the heart of some of your most lethal weapons. Tiberium gives you the power to create and to destroy. This is happening at a global level as well… Tiberium fuels the engines of commerce and war as it slowly destroys Earth’s biosphere. It is a transformative force and a source of mystery.

Tiberium is our Force, our Spice, our One Ring, and our Matrix. Everything in our game world is defined by its relationship to Tiberium. GDI wants to contain Tiberium and reverse its effects. NOD wants to speed up its spread across the surface of the Earth. Kane has a vision of Tiberium as the catalyst for humanity’s next level of evolution. Where did Tiberium come from? Who made it? Why is it here? If we are in the middle of a transformation, where is it taking us? These are just a few of the questions that you’ll start learning the answers to in Command & Conquer 3 Tiberium Wars (C&C3).

IGNPC: What’s going on with the world in 2047? Is NOD on the upswing? What’s going on with Kane? How is that bastard still alive anyway? Will it be told through the goofy live action cutscenes that have been so popular?
Mike Verdu: In the year 2047, Tiberium has spread across the surface of the Earth, rendering large sections of the planet uninhabitable. GDI and NOD have been fighting over the rest of the world for decades. When we begin our story, this long war between GDI and NOD has turned into more of a twilight struggle. Some in GDI believe that NOD has split into factions and is on the verge of collapse. Others are convinced that NOD is planning a huge military operation.

It turns out the pessimists were right. Kane is back – and he’s been busy building up NOD while GDI grew complacent. The Brotherhood launches a massive surprise attack on GDI that begins with the destruction of GDI’s orbital military command center. NOD strikes while all of the GDI leaders are on board the space station Philadelphia for a conference on the containment of Tiberium. The Philadelphia and the entire political and military leadership of GDI are vaporized, reduced to a cloud of radioactive dust by a nuclear missile.

The vast orange fireball blooming in the night sky is the signal for the second phase of the attack. Large NOD armies flood into GDI strongholds, taking advantage of the chaos created by the decapitation of GDI’s command and control networks.

Battles rage across the world. Things are looking very grim for GDI. That’s where you come in as a GDI commander who must rally the demoralized and scattered GDI forces, mount a counterattack against NOD, and ultimately drive them out of GDI territory.

As for how the story will be told: We will have FMV cut scenes (with live action), but we’re also weaving story into everything we do in the single player campaign – from mission briefings to objectives to database entries you uncover in the world to radio conversations you overhear on the battlefield. We want to immerse you in the game world like never before.

IGNPC: The story is obviously an important sticking point to a lot of people, not least of all the people developing the game. What has gone into creating the story this time?
Mike Verdu: We’ve been doing pre-production on the Tiberium universe for quite a while now – fleshing out the backstory for GDI and NOD, laying out the timeline for important events, chronicling the history of Kane, and documenting a million other details that give the game universe a high degree of realism and internal consistency. In fact, I’ve never seen this degree of universe development for a game before. We even brought in some MIT scientists to figure out the physics of Tiberium. They gave us a white paper suitable for publication in a journal that describes the atomic structure of Tiberium, how it transmutes matter, what kind of radiation it gives off, and how it might be used to power machinery and weapons. We have also worked hard to understand where it came from, why it’s here, and what it means for the future of humanity. The end result of all this work is a wonderfully rich and deep universe that provides a solid foundation for our story. When everything in the game world feels like it is consistent and makes sense – from its science and mythology to the motivations of the major characters and civilizations – then I think you have something that is much greater than the sum of its parts. The game world becomes a place that you can believe in and get lost in… a world that assumes its own form of reality.

IGNPC: We’ve heard that the two main factions on future Earth, GDI and NOD, will come up against a third faction this time around. Are there any details to share about the new combatants yet?
Mike Verdu: We are not revealing our third faction yet.

IGNPC: What’s gone into making the gameplay AI more advanced for folks that have been with the C&C franchise for over a decade?
Mike Verdu: The big win for us is creating an AI that accommodates different styles of play. RTS players tend to be either ‘rushers’ – who play a fast game that is almost like high speed three dimensional chess – or ‘turtlers’ who want a slower experience with bigger bases, bigger armies, and epic late game confrontations.

Computer AI players tend to be either rushers – who frustrate the player who likes to turtle – or turtlers who are in turn very vulnerable to players who rush. A rusher who attacks a turtling AI is not going to have a good experience; the game will be over in 5 minutes.

You can change the balance of the game to favor either style of play, but a good game should accommodate both. You don’t want the rushers to be frustrated by a game that forces a slow pace and you don’t want turtlers to feel that they will get ambushed the second that a game session starts.

For C&C3, we want an AI that is either adaptive to your style of play or gives you the option up front to fight a turtler or a rusher. We might represent this by having different AI opponents you can play against (each one having a different style of play) or we could simply give you options up front (e.g. how aggressive the AI should be during the game session).

Our goal is to create an AI that will give you a satisfying play experience no matter what style of play you prefer… and we’re making some great strides in that direction. Look for more information on this as we get further into development.

IGNPC: What sorts of weapons will we see coming into the war this time? Will we see old favorites back again? Any new toys?
Mike Verdu: We’re updating some of the old favorites from past Command & Conquer (C&C) games as well as creating lots of new units. Some of the classic units we are bringing back include the GDI Commando, Orca, and Mammoth Tank as well as the NOD Stealth Tank. The C&C3 Mammoth has a fresh but familiar look. It has the double barreled turret and missile launcher upgrades that are so recognizable to C&C fans – but it also has some very cool new upgrades like very powerful rail cannons that can replace the standard tank guns. We’ll have more information about the new toys a little bit later in the development cycle.

IGNPC: Some of the fun of modern and futuristic combat is the huge explosions and nifty visual tricks. What is going into the graphics engine this time around that special effects aficionados should look forward to?
Mike Verdu: When you combine a setting as dramatic as the battlefield of the future with the amazing capabilities of today’s graphics cards, you have an opportunity to do some pyrotechnics like never before. We’re creating an improved particle system for C&C3 that will give us the ability to pump many, many more particles into our game environments than you’ve seen in our RTS games before. We’ll have tracers, ricochets, explosions, fires, plumes of smoke, dust, and haze in the atmosphere. The battlefield will have a new sense of depth and atmosphere.

IGNPC: RTS developers everywhere constantly look for new ways to create new gameplay mechanics in their games. What kinds of new and innovative gameplay will we be seeing in Tiberium Wars?
Mike Verdu: I’m actually very excited about the work we’re doing on the single player campaigns. We will reward your style of play in each of the campaigns, letting you make choices before and during missions that fundamentally alter how subsequent missions play.

Each of the three campaigns in the game will consist of chapters that we’re calling “Theatres of War”. A Theatre of War is a specific geographic location – like Scandinavia – where you will fight a series of related missions. You can choose your missions based on your style of play and strategy. For example, one mission might be about capturing a very large airfield while another might be a battle over a huge port. You get to choose which mission you play. If you capture the airfield, then you deprive your enemy of his air support in future missions while gaining the ability to call in special air strikes. If you capture the port, you gain access to some special naval units. The choices you make affect later missions.

In addition to the cool new single player campaigns, we are updating C&C gameplay so that it feels fresh – adding mechanics that are standard to cutting edge RTS games and creating some new features and innovations to drive the genre forward. Some examples of the new features include mobile bases, units that gain capabilities based on how close they are to the center of an Ion Storm (which can be summoned and controlled by one of the three game factions), and units that can work together to grant the player new battlefield capabilities.

It’s also worth mentioning the return of the side-bar interface: Our in-game UI for C&C3 is a side-bar that will feel familiar to C&C players but it has some added features that make it more useful – and make it feel interesting and new. We are combining the centralized production queues in the classic C&C side-bar with contextual space for selected units and structures. The new UI lets you quickly build units and structures, easily control grouped units, and access your build queues anywhere on the map – even in the middle of a battle. But you can still get lots of information about your selected units and activate their special abilities – which is pretty much expected in the latest generation RTS games. We think our interface for C&C3 is the best of both worlds.

IGNPC: C&C 3 will have a meta-game this time around apparently. Will it play out like the meta-game in Battle for Middle-earth II? Is this something for both single player and multiplayer?
Mike Verdu: We’re going to let you build structures and armies, move your forces, and attack territories on a high level map of the world. You’ll resolve conflicts over territory in RTS battles and be able to take your forces from the world map into battle with you – and what happens during the battle will affect the world map as well. This mode allows you to create your own campaign game.

IGNPC: What new can we expect to see from multiplayer? New game modes? VOIP? Clan support?
Mike Verdu: Most importantly, we’re making fundamental improvements to the engine to make the game feel very fast and responsive. We’re tying logic and rendering more closely together so that the game responds quickly to your input – your units will react instantly when you give them commands. We’re making sure our pathfinding and unit AI are upgraded. Our goal is to have fast, fluid, and fun RTS game play with a classic C&C feel.

We’re also investing heavily in game balance. We’ll be inviting the best C&C players to join us on-site during the later stages of development to help us balance, test, and tune the game.

I think making the gameplay silky smooth in all modes, and creating something that is really well balanced, are both key to the multiplayer experience. Beyond that, we have some cool new multiplayer features like native voice over IP (VOIP) and new spectator modes that let many people watch matches in progress. It is also our goal to take clan support to the next level.


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About the author

Ferry Groenendijk By Ferry Groenendijk: He is the founder and editor of Video Games Blogger. He loved gaming from the moment he got a Nintendo with Super Mario Bros. on his 8th birthday. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook and at Google+.

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